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Eleven wonderfully festive experiences across Suffolk for Christmas 2021



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It is (nearly) the most wonderful time of the year and after a muted 2020, the 2021 Christmas season is lining up to be fantastically festive.

We've done our best to find 11 of the best seasonal experiences across Suffolk (and a little further afield where they are worth it) sure to get you in the mood for December 25.

So, get ready to wrap up warm for all the festive feels on offer in 2021.

Oh, and some tickets are sure to sell fast now that Christmas is but weeks away, so if something takes your fancy don't delay your booking.

Our Bury St Edmunds has organised a Christmas Trail following the success of A Bury Merry Christmas in 2020 (credit: Allegro Creative Agency/Our Bury St Edmunds)
Our Bury St Edmunds has organised a Christmas Trail following the success of A Bury Merry Christmas in 2020 (credit: Allegro Creative Agency/Our Bury St Edmunds)

1. Our Bury St Edmunds Christmas trail

Step into Christmas in Bury with a new, fun and safe way to enjoy the town centre and the chance to win a share of £500 worth of prizes this year.

Our Bury St Edmunds, in partnership with HSBC UK, has put together a festive interactive trail around the historic centre with a 12 days of Christmas theme.

The trail launches on November 18, the same day as the annual Christmas lights switch-on event.

Participants need only their phone to either scan QR codes or send a text to participate. The trail is app-free without the need for players to download or sign up.

After visiting all 12 locations around the town participants can be automatically entered into a prize draw with a chance to win one of 14 Our Bury St Edmunds gift cards, including a top prize worth £100.

The trail closes on December 31. For more information, go to https://www.visit-burystedmunds.co.uk/whats-on/our-bury-st-edmunds-christmas-trail

The Eastern Stumpery at Ickworth Light Nights. Picture by Jim Woolf (51915140)
The Eastern Stumpery at Ickworth Light Nights. Picture by Jim Woolf (51915140)

2. Ickworth Light Nights, Horringer

For 17 nights from November 19 until December 5, visitors to the Ickworth Light Nights event can see the Italianate gardens glowing for light and sound on a trail designed to capture the magic of the gothic Victorian-esque Stumpery.

The trail culminates with a light display on the Rotunda, before visitors can enjoy a spot of Christmas shopping in the gift shop or pick up festive treats and mulled wine from the West Wing Café.

Ickworth Light Nights is open Mondays to Thursdays, 4.30-8.30pm (tickets £11 adults, £9 children aged five-17) and Fridays to Sundays 4.30-9.30pm (adults £12, children £10).

For more information and to book, go to https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ickworth/whats-on

Palace House. Picture by Mark Westley
Palace House. Picture by Mark Westley

3. Christmas carols at Palace House, Newmarket

Following last year's sell-out Christmas carol concert at the National Horse Racing Museum, Classic Femme will be back for 2021 on December 9, 6-7pm.

As well as a wonderfully festive concert, there will be a mini Christmas market, while The Tack Room will be selling mulled wine during the carols (or, you can book a table for a festive dinner after the concert). Meanwhile, the Bakery will be open until 7pm.

Oh, and make sure to dress warmly as the concert will take place outside in the King's Yard.

Tickets are free and sure to sell out – book at https://www.nhrm.co.uk/event/christmas-carols/

Fullers Mill Garden.PICTURE: Mecha Morton
Fullers Mill Garden.PICTURE: Mecha Morton

4. Fullers Mill Garden in winter

For the first time this year Fullers Mill Garden, in West Stow, is open to visitors for the winter season.

The seven-acre garden boasts a collection of unusual shrubs, perennials, lilies and marginal plants, providing year-round interest. The garden was created by the late Bernard Tickner MBE, who moved to Fullers Mill in 1958 and spent more than 50 years creating the garden from rough scrub and woodland.

The garden, Bothy shop, pop-up Christmas shop and tearoom will be open 11am-4pm on Saturdays from November 6 until December 18.

There is no charge to enter the shop and tearoom. There will be an entrance fee for the garden, but pre-booking is not required.

For more information, go to https://perennial.org.uk/garden/fullers-mill-garden/

Father Christmas giving gift to children in grotto. (51915221)
Father Christmas giving gift to children in grotto. (51915221)

5. Kentwell at Christmas, Long Melford

Step back in time to meet a range of Victorian characters, celebrating a traditional Christmas, with a family visit to Kentwell on December 4, 5, 11 and 12.

Cooks will be working in the Great Kitchen, bakers and villagers will be at the Moat House, while visitors can meet Charles Darwin himself in the Parlour as preparations are made for Christmas at Kentwell.

Visitors can also follow the days of Christmas trail through the gardens and find animals and garden crafts at the stables, before a trip to Father Christmas' Cottage to write and post Christmas letters and meet the big man himself.

Advance tickets cost £26.50 for adults, £27.50 for children aged 12-15, £14 for children aged four-11, £8.50 for children aged two-three and free for under twos.

For more information and to book, go to https://www.kentwell.co.uk/events/christmas-at-kentwell

Helmingham Hall
Helmingham Hall

6. Illuminated Garden Trail, Helmingham Hall and Gardens

With the nights drawing in rapidly, what better way to experience them than stepping into a magical world of colour, light and sound in the grounds of Helmingham Hall this winter.

Starting on November 19, thousands of lights will transform the gardens into an enchanted winter wonderland.

The illuminated trail starts by crossing the hall's drawbridge (pulled up every night since 1510) and warming up with a complimentary mulled wine within the courtyard. Then, visitors can continue through the gardens absorbing the sights and sounds, gather around fire pits to toast marshmallows and end the evening browsing the Stables Shops and pop-up stalls.

The Coach House Tearooms will be open for the event, serving hot and cold festive treats.

The trail runs from November 19-December 19 (not open on Mondays or Tuesdays), with the first entry time at 4.30pm and sessions every 15 minutes until 7.30pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays and 8.30pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Advance tickets cost £13 for adults, children aged five-15 £8 and £34 for a family ticket (two adults and two children). Tickets on the gate – if available – will cost £15 for adults, £9 for children and £39 for a family ticket.

For more information, go to https://www.helmingham.com/events/illuminated-garden-trail/

Preparations are being made for the Bury St Edmunds Santa Experience 2021 (52851497)
Preparations are being made for the Bury St Edmunds Santa Experience 2021 (52851497)

7. Bury St Edmunds Santa Experience, Arc shopping centre

A snowy enchanted forest, Santa’s toy shop and Santa’s traditional grotto cabin will be arriving in Bury this Christmas.

Three interactive rooms, offering a magical experience including all the sounds and scents you would expect to find in Lapland, will be created next to Hobbs, in Auction Street.

There, Bury's very own elves Clara and Clive, plus forest guardian Oakley the owl, will welcome visitors, who will be able to walk through the enchanted forest before reaching Santa’s toyshop, to learn where presents are made and have fun playing with giant toys. Families will then enter Santa’s Grotto, where they will experience the true magic of Christmas, receiving a gift from the elves on departure.

Tickets – £10 per child, under ones and accompanying adults free – go on sale from 9am on November 5, while the grotto opens on November 26 on various dates until Christmas Eve.

Twenty per cent of all ticket sales will be donated to Suffolk Mind.

Book tickets at www.arc-burystedmunds.com

Brandon Country Park.Picture by Mecha Morton
Brandon Country Park.Picture by Mecha Morton

8. Brandon Country Park winter trail quiz

From December 18 until January 2, 10am-3.30pm, visitors to Brandon Country Park can pick up a £1 puzzle sheet from the Copper Beech Café.If they then follow the trail, finding words along the way, fill them in to find the special word and then return to the visitor centre, they will be able to collect a prize.

Each quiz sheet costs £1.

Kids helping out on their allotments in the walled garden of Ickworth House.. (52851518)
Kids helping out on their allotments in the walled garden of Ickworth House.. (52851518)

9. The 12 days of Christmas at Ickworth, Horringer

We are back at Ickworth as the house opens its doors to reveal a festively-decorated treat.

Visitors can explore the entrance hall, drawing room, library and dining room, decorated with festive display and set as if for use by the 4th Marquess and Marchioness of Bristol and their family in the early 1930s.

The event runs from December 11 until December 22.

For more information, go to https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ickworth/features/the-12-days-of-christmas-at-ickworth

New ice slide attraction at The North Pole in Cambridge (51915102)
New ice slide attraction at The North Pole in Cambridge (51915102)

10. The North Pole Cambridge

The North Pole, at Parker's Piece, in Cambridge, is back this year (after missing the 2020 season) from November 19 until January 3.

Attractions to the ever-popular and growing event include the traditional ice skating rink complete with clear roof, so you can skate under the stars without worrying about the weather.

Alongside the ice rink, attractions include traditional festive rides, a new big wheel, ice bar and a new three-lane real ice slide – the longest in the UK.

North Pole Cambridge will also host Christmas markets and speciality food nights.

It will open daily from noon-8.45pm on weekdays and 11am-8.45pm at weekends.

For more information, go to https://thenorthpolecambridge.co.uk/

The Rougham Estate Christmas trees will be available at Blackthorpe Barn as usual. Picture by Tom Soper (51915166)
The Rougham Estate Christmas trees will be available at Blackthorpe Barn as usual. Picture by Tom Soper (51915166)

11. Blackthorpe Barns craft weekends

Craft weekends at Blackthorpe Barn turn 30 years old this year. Each Christmas the barn, which is nestled within Rougham Estate, is transformed to showcase work by some of the most talented artists and craft-makers, which has helped the event to be listed in the top eight Christmas markets list by the Crafts Council UK.

Each exhibiting craft-maker has been chosen to offer an eclectic mix of high-quality pieces. This year, there are beautiful pieces such as woven and knitwear designs and textiles, ceramics, glassware, metalware, wood creations, natural beauty products, leather items, jewellery, books, baskets, tasty treats and more. Many of the craft-makers change each weekend.

There will also be a number of craft-led workshops, including willow workshops and Christmas wreath making – workshops can be booked online.

In addition to the crafts there is a popular Country Christmas Shop, open every day until December 22, while Rougham Estate Christmas trees are available from November 19.

Numbers into the crafts at any one time will be limited and monitored. Single or season tickets can be purchased online with dates and entry time slots allocated, or you can buy tickets at the door, however you may incur a small wait depending on visitor numbers at the time.

For more information, go to www.blackthorpebarn.com

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